MY Atrocity, David Kennedy
MISTRAL, David Kennedy (12pp,
£4, Rack Press)
Pamphlets are more enjoyable than collections (discuss).
They're less intimidating, easier to approach - and shorter. Better to carry
around too; it's often useful to read snippets during an England game or on
the bog (of late, similarly rewarding experiences).
Two pamphlets, but there the similarities end...
MY Atrocity is a fabulous piece of
work. Highly inventive and energetic, with the balance between linguistic
anarchy and control judged perfectly:
I am strange new
station car park
in case I
I CAN go off
because I AM
a corrupt packet
no because I
off MY lips
I CAN go home
it is not a
I CAN eat
The poems are linked by a controlling sexuality and impersonality -
emphasised by the bludgeoning repetition of 'MY' - through scenes from
squalid English town centres and internet activity. Public and private space
become horribly mangled, and some horrific life-form emerges:
I AM a sex mast
or stink it
I AM the
WLTM and fire
that helps ME
(from 'Sex Mast')
Kennedy successfully blends internal and external detail, so the lurking
urban malaise is framed and absorbed. Throughout, there is a sense of
language itself morphing and controlling - even causing - violence. I was
partly reminded of A Clockwork Orange - how Alex's voice becomes increasingly disembodied but
paradoxically more affecting.
It's also refreshingly free of name-checking - any hint of dropping in
current everyday/street references, just to get a quick hit. Rather, the
impression is of something new and genuine being formed, through the
I AM a maladapted creature
born of new
that love ME
to love ME as
a dead object
not a living
when I LET
nothing inside ME
(from 'Live Wrecking')
The disturbing sense is of the grotesque egocentricity encouraged by new
technology, blended with the violent spectacle of its release, onto our urban
streets. It seems to me that Kennedy has done something original and very
vivid here. Prynne's poetry has, for years, been using vocabulary and
concepts from free market economics, but I don't think he has linked it with
commonplace but bizarre experiences, triggered in any English town at night;
Kennedy's poems here are very rooted, direct - and successfully disturbing.
This is 'experimental' work without the least obscurity, or sense of
self-satisfaction in its distinctness. Yet it is refreshingly new and
In contrast, Mistral seemed
a terrible bore. Poems about Provence, Cezanne, burnt landscapes...you get the
its strokes sobbing
and splitting the air
(from 'Cezanne; The Rage')
It all seems very predictable, done so many times - David Harsent's terrific
Bonnard collection Marriage
sprung to mind.
Moreover, it's an area I obviously know well - I was writer-in-residence at
the Dior perfume factory in Grasse, from April to September 2001. If I can
beg my loyal reader's indulgence further, here is a poem I wrote, 'Vache
Merde', from the pamphlet Fromage Frais pour les Enfants (Cadaver Press, 2004).
Modesty prevents my mentioning that it has also been widely anthologised -
and should feature in the Salt Anthology Best British Poetry of
2011 (Lumsden permitting).
I now quote from memory:
droning of cicada,
I set my
easel below the Pont d'Escalope;
harsh blue light
on my sandals.
blow stale odours of Frenchmen,
from the wash!
I too, now an
artist, have started to ignore bodily hygiene -
goatee beard and worn a filthy smock.
frites pour le petit chien.
Oh well; we all get our inspiration from somewhere. And what a fantastic
pamphlet MY Atrocity is.